Cast & Crew
In Brooklyn, while rehearsing for his wrestling match against Bertram the Magnificent, Abdullah, the Arabian Assassin, complains that promoters Bud Jones and Lou Hotchkiss want him to lose the match. Abdullah, the wrestling champion of North Africa, argues that he has never lost a match, but when Bud insists that he lose this one, the Arab decides to break his contract with the promoters and return to Algiers. Having borrowed $5,000 from mobster Frankie to import the wrestler to the United States, Bud and Lou decide to go to Algiers themselves to bring Abdullah back. Unknown to the promoters, Abdullah is the cousin of Sheik Hamud El Khalid, a tribal chief who is attempting to extort money from the company that is building a railroad in Algiers. Lou and Bud are mistaken for railroad agents by Hamud's men, who then make numerous attempts to kill Bud. Lou further infuriates Hamud when he mistakenly outbids the sheik for six slave girls at an auction. In order to escape Hamud's men, Bud and Lou mistakenly join the French Foreign Legion, unaware that their sergeant, Axmann, is a traitor working in league with the sheik. Later, Bud and Lou are sent into town by the commandant to meet with Nicole Dupree, a French undercover agent. Axmann, however, sets a trap for the two, but they manage to escape it. Bud and Lou tell Nicole that Axmann is the traitor, but the spy tells them that she needs proof of the sergeant's duplicity. The two then search Axmann's quarters for evidence, but are caught by the evil sergeant, who sends them into the desert as reinforcements for a beleaguered Legion battalion. Later, Bud and Lou escape a deadly attack by Hamud's men when they leave their posts to search for a missing camel. The two then wander the desert until they stumble across an oasis. There, Bud and Lou are captured by Hamud's men, and taken to the sheik's camp, where they are soon joined by Nicole, who has been captured by Axmann. Later, Hamud orders Abdullah to kill Bud and Lou in a wrestling match, but the wrestler agrees to help the two escape if they will take him back to Brooklyn, so that he can avoid an arranged marriage with Hamud's ugly daughter. With Abdullah and Nicole's help, Bud and Lou make their escape. The four trick their pursuers into entering an empty Legionnaire fort, which they then blow up. Afterward, Bud and Lou receive medals for their bravery, along with their discharges from the Legion. As they leave, Bud insists on inspecting the trailer Lou claims is filled with "knickknacks," only to discover it is filled with beautiful slave girls.
Wee Willie Davis
D. D. Beauchamp
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
David S. Horsley
Joan St. Oegger
Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion
In a preposterous turn of events, wrestling promoters Bud Jones (Bud Abbott) and Lou Hotchkiss (Lou Costello) lose their star attraction, Abdullah (Wee Willie Davis), and pursue him all the way back to his native Algeria where the duo try to coax him to return to the ring. Instead, the boys are tricked into enlisting in the Foreign Legion and soon find themselves threatened by murderous Arabs, not to mention a sadistic commander. Highlights along the way include a talking skeleton, some amusing desert mirages (East Side Kid David Gorcey appears in a cameo as a displaced newspaper boy) and the seductive Patricia Medina as a French secret agent masquerading as a harem girl.
Production on Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion didn't proceed as smoothly as some previous A&C outings. For one thing, Lou Costello's health was precarious. He had recently recovered from rheumatic fever and a gall bladder operation, requiring a postponement of filming for several months. Despite this, he still insisted on performing some of his own stunts, in particular a wrestling match with Wee Willie Davis, which resulted in Lou suffering a wrenched arm socket and bruised tendon. The comedian was also neglecting his diet, opting instead (on a typical day) for "two cokes, three cups of coffee, a Popsicle, a nut candy bar, and two Arab apples [onions]." There was also another dilemma; Charles Barton, who had guided the comedy team through eight previous films (including two of their biggest hits, The Time of Their Lives (1946) and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein), had moved on to other projects so a new director was sought. At first Edward Sedgwick, who helmed such Buster Keaton comedies as The Cameraman (1928), was considered but then dropped due to a poor recent track record. Eventually, Charles Lamont, who had worked with the boys once before, was recruited. In the book Abbott and Costello in Hollywood by Bob Furmanek and Ron Palumbo, Lamont said, "I refused to do a second Abbott and Costello film after Hit the Ice  was completed. I didn't want to be labeled an 'Abbott and Costello director.' I liked working with Bud and Lou and I wanted to do other things. Universal finally offered me a seven-year contract and a big salary and I forgot my ambitions. Abbott and Costello were my future." (He would direct them in seven more features.)
Co-star Patricia Medina recalled in the Furmanek-Palumbo biography her decision to star in the film: "¿I remember everyone at the studio saying to me, 'Ohhh, you don't know what's going to happen to you!' I asked what they meant. 'Wait till Costello pulls some of his gags on you! Watch the chair you're sitting in. It'll probably go up in smoke.' But nothing like that ever did happen. They must have sensed that I was frightened, so they played it just the other way. He [Lou] was a perfect gentleman, and so helpful to somebody who hadn't done very much acting. He'd ad-lib out of habit - he just couldn't help it. He certainly didn't do it to throw you, and if he did throw you, he was terribly apologetic and sweet...it was very difficult to look him in the eye without breaking up."
While Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion might not be one of the comic duo's best features, it certainly proved to be profitable, despite having one of the lowest budgets of any Abbott and Costello movie. But even most critics were favorable in their reviews; The Hollywood Reporter wrote "it is many shades better than the average slapstick comedy. The boys have plenty of good gags to work with, and the Robert Arthur production smartly gives them much to do" and the Los Angeles Times said "Laurel and Hardy once made a very funny comedy [The Flying Deuces (1939)] with that background, and now Abbott and Costello in 'Foreign Legion' are finding just as many laugh chances when they, too, join the rugged men of the desert outposts..." For movie buffs, Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion affords the extra pleasure of spotting such distinctive character actors in the background as Marc Lawrence (the swarthy, pock-marked gangster henchman of Key Largo (1948) and countless other crime dramas) and Tor Johnson (famous for his roles in the cult classics of Ed Wood - Plan 9 from Outer Space, (1958), etc).
Producer: Robert Arthur
Director: Charles Lamont
Screenplay: John Grant, Martin Ragaway, Leonard Stern (based on a story by D. D. Beauchamp)
Cinematography: George Robinson
Film Editing: Frank Gross
Music: Joseph Gershenson
Art Direction: Bernard Herzbrun, Eric Orbom
Cast: Bud Abbott (Bud Jones), Lou Costello (Lou Hotchkiss), Patricia Medina (Nicole), Walter Slezak (Axmann), Douglass Dumbrille (Hamud El Khalid), Leon Belasco (Hassam), Marc Lawrence (Frankie), Wee Willie Davis (Abdullah), Tor Johnson (Abou Ben).
BW-80m. Closed Captioning.
by Jeff Stafford
Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion
The title cards on the viewed print read: "Universal-International presents Bud Abbott Lou Costello in the Foreign Legion." The film was also reviewed under the title Foreign Legion.